How Bussr and Nekla partnership could be a gamechanger in Digital Payments

Singapore-based transport technology provider Bussr will offer its passengers a digital payment option through payment provider Nekla.

This partnership millions of underbanked users to pay for Bussr services easily. Nekla is founded by Silicon Valley and Wall Street pioneers.

Nekla is creating a global payment ecosystem which can be accessed by anyone with a $30 smartphone and data access. Download the app, deposit local currency to your account from a third-party financial service provider, or deposit cash in a retail store. You then have digital currency that can be used almost anywhere on earth.

Bussr was founded two years ago by entrepreneurs Hussein Abdelkarim and IM Shousha. The app is a platform that caters to all segments of South-East Asia’s US$30 billion mobility market including ride-sharing, public buses, private buses, scooter rentals, and car pooling.

This partnership will allow Bussr to rapidly expand the scope of their operations to the 5.7 billion people in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and beyond. It’s numbers like that which make Bussr believe they will earn a large share of the global transit and ground passenger transportation market that is predicted to reach US$908.8 billion by 2027.

Bussr currently operates across more than 500 cities, with over 830 transport operators, 60-plus payment partners, and more than 100,000 retail stores. While Bussr has already seen more than 12 million passengers use their platform in less than two years, they believe it is Nekla’s digital-based payment platform that will lead to ubiquity on a global scale.

The under-banked conundrum

A challenge Bussr has been facing, which Nekla addresses, is meeting the demand from emerging markets, where 1.7 billion adults are still locked out of the conventional banking system, even though half a billion of that population have access to the internet. This means over a third of the planet’s adult population is unbanked.

Take the example of Vietnam. According to a study in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of the Vietnamese adult population do not have a bank account, the highest rate in Southeast Asia. https://w.media/vietnams-underbanked-are-fintech-startups-ready-to-take-on-telco-giants/

For Bussr, this means millions of customers who want to use their platform, but have no reliable way of paying.

Nekla’s technology can certainly address the issues of providing service to the unbanked with access to money, all the while benefiting from its inherent strengths of trustworthiness and transparency. But what really captured Bussr’s attention was how Nekla could make digital payments beginner-friendly and accessible to millions of people, according to company executives.

Front-line financial technologies, despite the headlines, are far from reaching mass adoption worldwide. After all, most people don’t have time to study complex algorithms to make a simple payment.

Bridge between real world and digital finance

Nekla believes that they can bridge the divide between the real world and the digital finance space, and trigger a global, mass uptake of digital finance with a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use payment and lending platform. Bussr’s Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) technology serves both as a mobile app for private travelers and a full journey ticketing, payment, and fleet management solution for cities and enterprises.

Its AI platform continuously monitors millions of data points to help large-scale transport operations perform at optimal efficiency for both passengers and operators.

Bussr is backed by high-profile investors, such as Bridford Group, Peng Ong of Monk’s Hill, Le Mercier Group, Jack Selby of Thiel Capital, Altitude Partners, Angela Huang, Duncan Clark, Founder of China BDA, Alibaba early investor and author of the book ‘The House That Jack Ma Built, Andrew Huang of Fountainvest, and Alfa Intelligence Capital. There are also strategic angel investors from Facebook, PayPal, Lyft, Spotify, Zoom, Didi, and Impossible Foods. The Bussr app operates in 2,500 destinations in South-East Asia.

On its part Nekla’s management team has managed the world’s largest internet ventures, led major digital transformation projects for governments and global consulting firms like PwC and Deloitte, and guided industry leaders, acting as Microsoft’s Chief Architect and Google’s Enterprise Architect in billion-customer markets.

With this experience and knowledge behind it, and with the backing of such influential partners, Nekla believes it can make Digital Finance the new norm for mass-adopted payments and lending around the world.

South Korea’s big three telcos to share 5G in remote regions

South Korea’s three largest telcos are coming together to bring 5G to remote and coastal areas in the country.

SK Telecom, KT Corporation, and LG Uplus Corporation have signed an agreement that will see users in remote locations access 5G regardless of the mobile carrier they subscribed to.

This means that if a user is subscribed to SK Telecom, but SK Telecom’s mobile network does not cover the remote location that he or she is based and KT Corp.’s does, the user will still be able to activate 5G and surf the net with KT Corp.

This collaboration comes as part of the country’s ongoing plan to roll out 5G nationwide. In 2020, all three telcos vowed to invest up to $23 billion (KRW 25.7 trillion) to upgrade their network infrastructure.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said that the plan will currently undergo testing, and is scheduled for commercialisation in phases by April 2024.

The ministry also added that the selected remote regions are sparsely populated, with a population density of 92 people per square kilometer, compared with those without network sharing at 3,490 people per square kilometer.

As of February, the country had 13.66 million 5G subscriptions, accounting for 19 per cent of its total mobile users. South Korea was the world’s first country to commercialize 5G in April 2019.

Facebook signs first deal with CleanMax to buy RE in India

In a first of its kind initiative, Facebook has signed a deal to buy renewable energy in India from CleanMax.

According to a Reuters report, the social media giant’s first such deal in South Asia, which will be procured from CleanMax’s 32 megawatt (MW) wind power project, located in southern state of Karnataka.

This is part of a larger portfolio of wind and solar projects that Facebook and Mumbai-based CleanMax are working together on for supplying renewable power into India’s electrical grid, they said in a joint statement.

CleanMax will own and operate the projects, while Facebook will buy the power off the grid using environmental attribute certificates, or carbon credits, the companies said. CleanMax has successfully installed 550+ rooftop solar projects for 170 corporates, with a total rooftop solar operating capacity of 250 MW. CleanMax also operates 450 MW of large-scale solar and wind farms for supplying clean energy to its corporate customers.

Facebook’s head of renewable energy, Urvi Parekh, told Reuters the company typically doesn’t own the power plants but instead signs ‘long-term’ electricity purchasing agreements with the renewable power company.

This development follows the one in Singapore, where Facebook announced similar partnerships with energy providers Sunseap Group, Terrenus Energy and Sembcorp Industries on projects that can produce 160 MW of solar power.

The electricity generated from these plants will power the tech giant’s first Asian data centre that is set to start operations next year, added Parekh. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had recently said that the company’s global operations are now supported wholly by renewable energy and that it has reached net-zero emissions.

Data centres which power tech companies such as Facebook use up as much as 1 per cent of the world’s total energy, the International Energy Agency said last year. Similarly, Singapore’s data centre industry sector accounted for 7 per cent of the country’s total electricity consumption in 2012, noted Professor Wen from NTU College of Engineering. https://w.media/what-you-need-to-know-about-green-dcs/

This ratio is predicted to reach 12 per cent by 2030 due to the rapid growth of the data centre business. Demand for data centres are seeing a surge globally, driven by remote working and increased digitalisation of businesses in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Honda to introduce First Energy service in Europe

Honda will introduce its first energy service in Europe and launch its domestic intelligent charging solution ‘e:PROGRESS’ in the UK.

e:PROGRESS is a home charging solution which includes a connected charger, an advanced intelligent software developed by smart charging and aggregation specialist, Moixa. The software sets a charging schedule to ensure the car is always adequately charged when it’s needed based on the requirements of the owner, while optimising the use of low-priced clean energy.

Europe’s EV push

e:PROGRESS is the first service to be introduced by Honda’s new Energy Solutions division, a business unit recently established to offer a comprehensive portfolio of charging and energy management products and services to EV owners in Europe. Other projects in development include Honda Power Manager – a bi-directional vehicle-to-grid system which enables the collection and distribution of electricity between EVs and the grid to intelligently balance demand and supply of energy, and to make better use of renewables.

Jorgen Pluym, General Manager of Honda’s Energy Solutions division said: “Introducing e:PROGRESS to the market is a significant statement of Honda’s ambition in the provision of energy solutions as part of the continued move towards electrification and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. This unique and innovative service, our first energy solution for Europe, gives Honda e customers a highly-advanced intelligent charging solution offering considerable cost savings, while our partner Octopus Energy guarantees that 100 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources.”

Electricity will be provided by Octopus Energy, with its UK-first dynamic tariff, Agile Octopus, a combined tariff for both the EV and home which allows customers access to lower prices during renewable-heavy, off-peak periods. Moixa’s software selects the most cost-effective times to charge the Honda e based on the tariff, which changes price as often as every 30 minutes in response to fluctuations in wholesale energy prices.

This gives customers an estimated annual saving in charging costs of up to EUR475 per year compared to a standard flat tariff, while Octopus Energy guarantees that 100 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources, the company said.

e:PROGRESS offers a seamless experience in setting up the service, guiding the customer through checking their eligibility online, switching to the dynamic tariff and subscribing to intelligent charging.

The preferred connected charger for the service is the Honda Power Charger S+ (4G), which connects remotely to e:PROGRESS to schedule access to low-cost electricity. With a simple yet sophisticated design inspired by that of the Honda e, Honda Power Charger has been designed to create more value in the future with further intelligent charging services which interact with the grid.

As well as offering a unique set of benefits to customers, e:PROGRESS will support active grid management to help stabilise demand and to optimise the use of renewables. It also aligns with Honda’s 2030 Vision, part of which outlines the company’s ambition to create ‘new value’ by moving into areas other than mobility, including energy services.

Offered exclusively to Honda e customers, e:PROGRESS will be available in the UK now. Further services under the e:PROGRESS brand will follow in Germany, with other European countries under consideration.

According to BlueWeave Consulting, the global market for electric vehicle market is estimated to grow from USD 121.8 billion in 2020 to USD 236.3 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 10.6 per cent. In 2020, Europe witnessed the strongest growth compared to other markets. In the present scenario, electric vehicle charging stations in private residences are very common, however, in order to meet the consumer demand, on-site commercial charging is expected to become a standard building feature in this decade.

The electric vehicle market in 2030 is expected to require more than 50 million chargers in buildings, consuming at least 520 TWh per year, as per BlueWeave Consulting’s estimates.

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Mitsubishi Power bags 1500 MW natural gas-fired power plant in Uzbekistan

Mitsubishi Power, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, has bagged an order for two M701JAC gas turbines for a 1,500-megawatt (MW) class natural-gas-fired GTCC (gas turbine combined cycle) power plant which is under construction in Sirdarya, in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The Sirdarya project is the Government of Uzbekistan’s effort to provide cleaner, more efficient and cost-competitive gas power that can be utilised across industries in Uzbekistan. This new plant will have capacity equivalent to 8 per cent of Uzbekistan’s total generation capability and will be able to meet 15 per cent of the country’s overall power demand when complete. Construction of the new power plant will also lead to the partial closure of existing Sirdarya thermal power plant with improved efficiency, which is expected to result in a reduction of CO2 emissions by 2.2 million tons per year, the company said.

In addition to providing two high-efficiency next-generation gas turbines as the plant’s core equipment, Mitsubishi Power will also provide technical advisers to support construction and commissioning and 25-year long term service agreement (LTSA) to support reliable operation.

The JAC-Series are gas turbines featuring a forced-air-cooled combustor system and an optimized cooling structure. They also have an extra-thick-film thermal barrier coating that enables more advanced cooling of turbine blades, and they adopt a compressor with a high pressure ratio.

The order follows the conclusion of an equipment supply agreement for the Sirdarya project between ACWA Power, a leading Saudi developer, investor and operator of power and water desalination assets in 13 countries worldwide and China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd. (CGGC) as the appointed project EPC contractor.

Since inception in 2004, ACWA Power has grown rapidly both domestically and internationally in line with its mission to make available electricity and desalinated water in a reliable and responsible manner to support the social development and economic growth of nations where they operate. CGGC is headquartered in Beijing and undertakes business in more than 140 countries worldwide, mainly in the fields of hydropower, environmental protection, equipment manufacture and infrastructure development.

Further, Mitsubishi Power will focus its resources into promoting adoption of high-efficiency, environmentally friendly GTCC power generation equipment in a quest to contribute to stable supplies of electric power indispensable to worldwide economic development, and to help achieve a sustainable decarbonised society.

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How Walmart China has embarked on its Omni Channel digitalisation journey

Twenty five years after it entered the China market, Walmart China has embarked on its Omni-Channel customer digitalisation journey.

The retail giant has partnered with Nasdaq-listed Dada Group, China’s leading local on-demand delivery and retail platform which involves collaboration and a focus on omni-channel consumer digitalisation. The two of them have jointly launched the exclusive VIP program for customers of Walmart stores on JD Daojia (JDDJ), the on-demand retail platform of Dada Group.

In July 2019, Walmart China and Dada Group jointly launched the exclusive VIP service for customers of Walmart stores on JDDJ’s platform. As of September 2020, Walmart China made the VIP program available in over 400 stores across China. This is a pioneering effort for Walmart stores to promote its customer digitalization, and for JDDJ to improve targeted digital operations of users, company officials said.

Walmart China’s digital transformation

Customer digitalisation is a key part of Walmart China’s digital transformation strategy and Walmart China stores aim to provide diversified product offerings and superior shopping experiences for its tens of millions of digital customers, based on optimizing technology innovation and close collaborations with O2O platform. Meanwhile, as China’s largest local on-demand retail platform in the supermarket segment, JDDJ focuses on supporting retail partners in digital transformation, promoting digital innovation practices, and further strengthening empowering capabilities and its leading position.

“We hope to explore refined operation of hypermarket’s digital customers through close collaboration with JDDJ,” said Jingyang Xu, Chief Technology Officer of Walmart China. “It improves customer engagement and accumulates our digital assets. On the other hand, we could accurately identify high-value omni-channel customers and provide them with more considerate services, so that they can enjoy more convenient shopping experience at Walmart stores.”

“Leveraging cutting-edge proprietary technologies, Big Data and previous experience in user operations, Dada Group has collaborated with Walmart China to develop the refinement operation plan for Walmart stores’ VIP consumers on JDDJ and achieved the functional support including user portrait, hierarchical operations, targeted coverage, and VIP benefit operations,” said Huijian He, Vice President of Dada Group.

To celebrate 8.8 Omni-channel Shopping Festival in 2020, Walmart China launched the VIP Week Campaign on JDDJ’s platform. During the promotional week, the number of Walmart stores’ exclusive VIP customers soared to hundreds of thousands.

According to JDDJ’s data, the orders placed by Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 2.7 times of ordinary customers. As for expenditure growth rate during 8.8 shopping festival, Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 3 times than ordinary customers on JDDJ.

“It has proved that the value of VIP customer operation was recognised by valuable omni-channel customers, increasing overall sales to drive healthy growth,” added He.

“In terms of digital operations of omni-channel customers, Walmart China and JDDJ are at the forefront of the industry. The differentiated VIP program of Walmart stores contributes to identifying and managing high-value customers, and developing exclusive customer groups,” said Jianzhen Peng, Secretary General of China Chain Store & Franchise Association, China’s national representative for the retail and franchise industry.

Going forward, Walmart China and Dada Group will further develop omni-channel customers on JDDJ, expand the scale of VIP customers, and increase VIP benefits to provide better shopping experience.

Retail landscape

The Chinese retail sales market is highly competitive and diversified, with the 100 leading retail companies taking up a market share of relatively low 6.3 percent in 2019, according to Statista. With a sales volume of about 379 billion yuan in 2019, Suning Commerce Group ranked first among the leading retail chain operators in China, followed by Gome Electrical Appliances and Red Star Maccalline.

In terms of convenience store sector, Sinopec Group dominated the market as of 2019. Convenient stores are among the fastest growing retail channels for consumer goods, especially grocery shopping in China.

In 2019, the Chinese retail revenue amounted to around 13 trillion yuan while the contribution of merchandise trade to the country’s GDP was around 32 per cent. Slowing exports and an increase in volume of domestic markets indicate a strategy shift of the Chinese economy towards satisfying domestic demand.

As rural and urban households have witnessed a steady growth of disposable incomes, the spending power of the Chinese population has also increased dramatically and the Chinese market has matured into one of the largest and still growing consumer markets worldwide. Foreign and domestic retailers both vie strongly for the attention of the Chinese consumer.

Retail sales of consumer goods in China grew by more than eight percent annually in the past five years. Though in-store retail still held the largest market share among all retail channels, coronavirus outbreak has boosted online retail in China.

Around 23 per cent of the retail sales of fast moving consumer goods in the country were attributed to the online shopping segment as of 2020, noted Statista.

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Tencent Cloud launches first Internet Data Centre in Indonesia

Tencent Cloud, the cloud business of Tencent, has launched its first Internet Data Centre (IDC) in Indonesia.

With this launch, the Chinese tech giant has further emphasised its commitment to addressing the ever-growing business needs in Indonesia and Asia. Tencent Cloud is Tencent’s cloud services brand, providing industry-leading cloud products and services to organizations and enterprises across the world. With this addition, Tencent Cloud has extended its growing infrastructure network spanning 27 regions and 61 availability zones, the company said.

Located in the CBD of Jakarta, Tencent Cloud’s latest IDC is now in full operation, completing the backbone access and networking of all major Indonesian and global internet services providers, and combining Tencent Cloud’s own high-quality border gateway protocol to cover the entire country. The launch of the IDC in Indonesia enables Tencent Cloud to be closer to its customers and users, reducing access delays to data and applications and helping businesses and organizations in the country accelerate their digital transformation.

It also helps customers meet regulatory and compliance requirements, providing more disaster recovery options in the whole APAC region.

Poshu Yeung, Senior Vice President, Tencent Cloud International, said, “With a population of 270 million, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Given that its population structure is younger, it has a huge internet demographic dividend and its mobile internet market is quickly developing. We are excited to launch our first Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia, aiming to help fully reach the peak of the country’s promising cloud computing potential. We are also proud of how the new IDC epitomizes our commitment to addressing current and future business needs in Indonesia and Asia, while strengthening our global network which now connects 27 regions and 61 availability zones.”

Read: Indonesia requests non-bank financial institutions to place data centres inside country

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing public cloud markets in Asia Pacific with a CAGR of 25 per cent. It is expected to increase its market size to US$0.8 billion by 2023 and the new IDC is rightly positioned to fulfil the growing need for cloud services in Indonesia and in the region.

These developments come in the backdrop of Tencent reporting strong 2020 annual results. Revenue from cloud computing and other business services showed a similar 29 per cent year-on-year increase to $5.9 billion (38.5 billion Yuan) thanks to Tencent’s penetration into the industrial internet with its flagship Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products and upgraded cloud infrastructure.

The establishment of the new IDC in Indonesia will support the growing needs of a wide range of industries, from financial services, internet and e-commerce to entertainment, gaming and education. Some of its clients incude digital banks such as Bank Neo Commerce (BNC). BNC, one of the progressive digital banks in Indonesia, has a core system with a fully operational Tencent Distributed Database (TDSQL), the first time for Tencent Cloud to have brought TDSQL overseas, boosting Indonesia’s internet architecture for its financial services industry.

Tjandra Gunawan, President Director of BNC, said, “The launch of the new Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia is a much-welcomed boost in the already fully operational TDSQL in BNC’s core system, which continues to enhance our business through financial technology. Through this collaboration with Tencent Cloud, BNC emphasizes its commitment to provide the best technology product services as we understand that data security and privacy are very crucial in the digital technology industry.”

Another company using Tencent cloud is JOOX, Asia’s most dedicated music and entertainment streaming platform.

JOOX was supported by Tencent Cloud on a range of entertainment offerings, including music streaming and karaoke singing with its massive processing capability for lyrics and audio timeline smart matching, as well as concert livestreaming and video on demand. In particular, Tencent Cloud supported the live broadcasting of many global music events on JOOX, including the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), which benefited from Tencent Cloud’s advanced and reliable technology, such as its low latency, real-time translation and high scalability.

Peter May, Head of JOOX Indonesia, said, “Through the launch of Tencent Cloud’s first IDC in Indonesia, JOOX looks forward to bringing more and enhanced entertainment experiencess to music fans in the country. We are glad to have the support of Tencent Cloud through its reliable and high-performances services to make sure that Indonesian music lovers can enjoy songs and music programs online in the safety of their homes.”

Another entertainment platform in Asia WeTV, has leveraged Tencent Cloud in Indonesia. Lesley Simpson, Country Manager, WeTV Indonesia, said, “WeTV’s commitment to consistently bring only the best to fans of Asian entertainment makes us inseparable from the support provided by Tencent Cloud. We are excited to reap the benefits of the new IDC in Indonesia, which will further enhance and improve the already reliable and high-quality service of Tencent Cloud, allowing us to create an even more unrivalled viewing experience for our users.”

Similarly, Aestron, offers an enterprise platform as a service for real-time communication (RTC) solutions, has formed a strategic collaboration with Tencent Cloud leveraging Aestron’s global market layout and Tencent Cloud’s capabilities and ecological advantages. Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Aestron’s platform infrastructure helps companies reach more than 400 million monthly active users in more than 150 countries.

Aestron powers some of the world’s most popular live-streaming, short-form video, and instant messaging apps. Tencent Cloud will join hands with Aestron, to launch new audio and video solutions, and provide quality services for the global market including Indonesia. In March, Tencent announced its first entry into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market with the construction of a data centre in Bahrain.

The company’s cloud computing arm, Tencent Cloud, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) to build an internet data center and a public cloud infrastructure in the region.

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L&T bags contract for constructing largest Solar Plant in Saudi Arabia

Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged a contract to construct the largest solar plant in Saudi Arabia.

The India-headquartered multinational company, which is into EPC projects, hi-tech manufacturing and services won this contract which is estimated to be in the range of US $600–900 million, the company said. Further, this contract was bagged from the consortium of ACWA Power and the Water and Electricity Holding Company, a subsidiary of the Public Investments Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), for Sudair Solar PV Project of 1.5 GW capacity.

This project is considered the largest Solar Plant in Saudi Arabia with PPA signed. It is also one of the largest such plants in the world.

The project that is coming up in Riyadh Province has a 30.8 square kilometre land parcel available to install a total capacity of 1.5GW PV Solar modules with associated single axial tracker and inverters.

The ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) are on track. As part of the NREP, Sudair Solar PV Project is awarded to PIF and its partner, ACWA Power. This project is part of the 70 per cent of the target capacity of 58.7 GW of the Kingdom assigned to Public Investment Fund (PIF), while Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) would undertake competitive tendering for the remaining 30 per cent, as announced by the Ministry of Energy in 2019.

“With several GWs of solar EPC experience, L&T has emerged as a global technology player for solar plants, said S N Subrahmanyan, CEO & Managing Director, L&T.

The company has been a provider of EPC services for several green projects in recent years.

“We are India’s largest EPC company to build hydel power plants, the largest market player to build nuclear power plants with a total capability of 9360 MWe, including some ongoing projects, on an EPC turnkey basis with the capacity to make important critical components like steam turbines, generators, end shields and other critical equipment,” noted Subrahmanyan.

Additionally, L&T has the largest market share of the Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) units for fossil fuel power plants.

It has over 2.1 GW of Utility Scale Solar projects commissioned and are also operating and maintaining many of them. “We have a diversified renewable portfolio of 32MW Floating Solar Power Plants, 135 MWH of Battery Energy Storage projects, 500 Micro Grids and 14,000 Solar Water Pumps,” added Subrahmanyan.

L&T is also working on potential solutions related to Green Hydrogen and Carbon Capture & Storage technologies. “Securing this project is a major milestone in our clean and green energy path to fight the climate crisis that the world faces,” pointed out Subrahmanyan.

T. Madhava Das, Whole-Time Director & Senior Executive Vice President (Utilities), L&T said “KSA aims to become a pioneer in Renewable Energy and we are happy to be a part of this journey. We have been building efficient power transmission and distribution networks with modern substations and transmission lines in this region for more than two decades. This is yet another recognition of our capabilities to construct mega projects to speed and scale”.

Lear more about sustainability during W.Media’s Digital Week South Asia from April 28-30.

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Deep Tech VC Speciale Invest closes second seed fund

Speciale Invest, a seed stage VC investing in deep technologies has closed its second seed fund.

The second fund exceeded its target and was oversubscribed with the backing of an experienced group of domestic investors, the company said.

The fund expects to invest in about 18-20 start-ups building enterprise software products including SaaS, Developers tools and frontier technologies including Space Tech, Robotics, Photonics, Alternative Energy to name a few. The VC firm said that the fund size was Rs 140 crore or US$ 2 million.

Speciale had raised its first fund in 2018 and invested in 14 startups so far, with an average deal size of sub US$0.5 million. The investment strategy and portfolio construct continues to remain the same across funds, and a larger corpus allows for more follow-on allocation to the portfolio. Portfolio companies of Speciale Invest include enterprise software companies Wingman, True Lark, TotalCloud, Scapic, iAuro, Pocket52 and; and hardware startups The ePlane Company, Agnikul, Astrogate Labs, CynLr, and Kawa Space.

Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner at Speciale Invest said, “We are excited to announce the launch of our second fund to support and boost the deep-tech startup ecosystem in India amid the ongoing pandemic. The oversubscribed round of funding and interest in our subsequent round demonstrate the support of our investors in our team in creating a long standing venture institution. It also reaffirms our commitment towards looking out for entrepreneurs who have unconventional ideas in building futuristic companies that will challenge the status quo and revolutionize the world.”

Arjun Rao, General Partner at Speciale Invest, said “We’re thrilled that our 2nd fund enables us to continue this journey of partnering with early stage founders building companies at the bleeding edge of innovation from India. We take the learnings and progress from the 1st Fund portfolio as motivation to double down on our core deep tech thesis and strive harder to explore newer areas of tech & science led disruption.”

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Extreme IX partners with CtrlS to establish an Internet eXchange Point in Mumbai

Extreme IX, an Internet Exchange Point has entered into a collaboration with CtrlS Datacenters to start its Point of Presence (PoP) in CtrlS facility in Mahape, Navi Mumbai in India.

With this POP, it aims to provide consumers access to superior interconnection services. The launch of this PoP in Navi Mumbai is a part of the recently announced expansion plans to address the growing internet consumption while ensuring buffer and lag-free experience. With this, Extreme IX in Mumbai has a total of 12 PoPs, the company said.

Also, the strategic partnership with CtrlS will extend cutting-edge technology to the members of the network, thus making the interconnection seamless. Through these points of access, the company in collaboration with CtrlS is consistently working towards extending its mission to help the internet service provider ecosystem by boosting local traffic exchange.

Sridhar Pinnapureddy, Founder and CEO, CtrlS said, ”Data centres and Internet Exchange Points are the perfect combination that can lead to the speedy adoption of Digital India. We are excited to be partnering with Extreme IX, our partnership will enable consumers to opt for reliable and efficient interconnection solutions.” He further added, “Our customers will benefit from reduced latency, lowered cost backed by robust internet connectivity, besides improved user experience.”

Raunak Maheshwari, Executive Director, Extreme group said, “Extreme IX since the beginning of its operations in India is working towards establishing a well-organised data transfer ecosystem. Our strategic and long-lasting collaboration to extend services across the country will help bring internet-enabled content closer to the end-consumers while encouraging more companies to adopt our services.”

Currently servicing out of 24 points of access across the country, Extreme IX with its steady expansion is attempting to enable a more neutral and faster interconnection platform in the country.

India is one of the biggest internet consumers in the world and thus the demand for an efficient interconnection service is increasing. Extreme IX currently has a network of over 350 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) directly connecting content providers like Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and Akamai. Participants in Extreme IX increased by 40 per cent in the year 2020 and is currently operational in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, according to the company.

Hong Kong Digital Asset Exchange to launch a Non-Fungible Token trading platform

Hong Kong Digital Asset Exchange (HKD.com), the first digital asset exchange to combine both an online platform and a sizable physical store in Hong Kong, plans to launch a one-stop NFT (Non-Fungible Token) trading platform.

This platform is slated for a third quarter launch in this year, the company said. It will be the first digital asset exchange in Hong Kong to introduce the blockchain technology and provide the NFT trading platform.

As the wave of globalisation of digital crypto asset activities is sweeping through the entire world, NFT is starting to assume increasing significance. HKD.com plans to launch the NFT trading platform in Hong Kong, name as HKD.com NFT Trading Platform (tentatively), the company said.

NFT is a new form of digital assets, issued digital creations content of digital design digital music, digital video etc. on the blockchain. NFT is unique and can own the specific token authenticating ownership of the content. NFT can be widely used, and currently, is applied and growing fast in the art market.

It provides artists with an online platform for the artworks publishing, promotion, trading and payment, with diversified product categories, including digital art, encrypted collections of animation, music and movies. On the trading platform, users can trade through public offer or bidding, and carry out token trading and exchange; while artists can also publish their own digital artworks through the trading platform.

Further, HKD.com supports multi-national legal tender, major cryptocurrencies, and over-the-counter legal tender trading services. In addition, serving as a one-stop service platform, HKD.com also provides physical store exhibition services for artists, the company said.

Kelvin Yeung, founder and CEO of HKD.com, said, “Considering the lack of a credible trading platform for digital creation in Hong Kong’s current market, HKD.com is determined to introduce the business of NFT and launch the trading platform. This not only can help the local artists to add value to their talents, but also can drive the development of the art market.”

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Strong demand adds powerful voltage to Shanghai Electric’s revenues

On the back of a strong performance in 2020, Shanghai Electric said that it will continue to implement its ‘three steps forward’ development philosophy, which is oriented towards strategy, problem-solving and results.

The world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of electric power generation, industrial equipment and integration services will continue to develop its smart energy services, in a bid to accelerate the industry towards a digitalised, connected and future.

Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shanghai Electric achieved strong results by reducing the impact across various business segments, the company said.

For the fiscal year ended 31 December 2020, the company achieved total revenue of RMB 137.285 billion, a year-on-year increase of 7.67 per cent, and the net profit attributable to owners of the company increased 7.34 per cent year-on-year to RMB 3.758 billion. New orders grew to RMB 185.55 billion and orders on hand rose to RMB 276.09 billion, a year-on-year increase of 8.7 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively.

The Board of Shanghai Electric has proposed to pay a final dividends of RMB 0.7178 for every ten shares.

Significant strides

In 2020, Shanghai Electric made significant strides in the reform of institutional mechanisms, integrated development of technologies, investment in scientific research and innovation, the development of smart solutions, and the construction of its Industrial Internet SEunicloud Platform — making steady progress on the road to become a force to reckon with.

The Energy Equipment Business Segment has maintained steady performance and achieved revenue of RMB 55.96 billion — a 21.8 per cent increase year-on-year that was mainly attributed to the rapid growth of wind turbines and components business.

Shanghai Electric also grew revenue from its Integrated Services Business Segment, which encompasses Energy Engineering and Services, Environmental Engineering and Services, Automation Engineering and Services, the Industrial Internet service, Financial Services, International Trade Services and more. This segment rose 17.9 per cent year-on-year to RMB 52.232 billion, with the uptick driven by accelerated growth in Energy Engineering and Services.

In 2020, the Company successfully obtained approval from the Listing Committee of Shanghai Stock Exchange for listing its subsidiary, Shanghai Electric Wind Power Group Co (SEWP), on the Science and Technology Innovation Board and completed the mixed-ownership reform of Shanghai Renmin Electrical Apparatus Works (SREAW) and Shanghai Centrifuge Institute Co., Ltd.

Furthermore, in order to drive the consumption of new energies and achieve green and sustainable development, Shanghai Electric proactively promoted energy transformation and its comprehensive energy services comprising wind, solar, hydro, thermal and storage integration and ‘source, grid, load and energy storage integration’.

Increased R&D push

The company also increased investment in R&D and successfully launched the world’s first black start wind turbine project with a capacity of over 5MW — establishing the complete technological capabilities for a smart energy solution.

Committed to cultivating renewable energy and energy storage, Shanghai Electric officially launched multiple smart solutions throughout 2020. Last year, the Company put its Shanghai Electric Guoxuan Nantong lithium battery industrial base into operation, as well as its integrated wind-solar Smart Energy project in Shanghai’s Minhang Industrial Zone, and Shanghai Electric Golmud Meiman Minhang energy storage power station in Golmud City, Qinghai Province.

Shanghai Electric added nearly 30,000 new devices to its ‘SEunicloud’ industrial internet platform in the 2020 fiscal year, with assets value totalling RMB 24.7 billion. It also developed and integrated 15 industry applications, ranging from equipment networking and fault diagnosis to energy planning. Simultaneously, Shanghai Electric developed eight preliminary industry solutions, which include wind power smart operation and maintenance, thermal power remote operation and maintenance, machine tool operation and maintenance, energy storage battery and distributed energy.

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Adani Electricity launches green energy option to Mumbai customers

Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML), a part of the Adani Group
has launched its Mumbai Green Energy initiative, with an aim to play a pivotal role in Mumbai’s transition towards green energy.

As a part of this initiative, customers will have a flexibility to choose renewable energy consumption options, a move which is the first of its kind in India.

Further, AEML will source over 30 per cent of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2023 and further increase this share to 50 per cent by way of consent already being sought from Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to add additional 1000 MW of Round The Clock (RTC) Power with more than 51 per cent component from RE Power. Indian regulations mandate approval from a regulatory commission such as MERC before any scheme is rolled out to customers.

AEML customers can ask the utility for options to buy RE Power under the current MERC scheme of providing 100 per cent RE Power, by paying 66 paisa extra. Also, AEML will be able to provide RE Certificates to customers as AEML will receive 700 MW supply from hybrid solar and wind generation in Rajasthan towards end of 2022-23.

AEML will also add an additional 1,000 MW power with substantial component of green energy, which has already, put up for approval of MERC.

Kandarp Patel, CEO and MD, AEML, said “AEML will empower its customers to choose the source of their energy, making green electrons accessible to everyone and enabling the green energy transition. We can guarantee 100 per cent green energy supply and certificates in Mumbai, without any modifications or disruptions. We will create customised renewable energy solutions for all customers to take full advantage of the renewable energy opportunities and achieve their sustainability goals.”

This Mumbai Green Energy Initiative is a voluntary program and is for existing AEML consumers and prospective customers. All existing and new customers are eligible to participate. AEML will issue monthly certificates to such customers stating the percentage (%) of power requirement that has been sourced through renewable energy.

Rapid strides are underway in Asia towards clean energy consumption. Recently, Singapore-based solar firm Sunseap Group will form a joint venture with Malaysia’s largest electricity utility, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB). This joint venture trial is to import clean electricity into Singapore, from Malaysia.

According to the terms of the agreement, the partnership will import 100 MW of electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources, TNB and Sunseap said in a joint statement.

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Sakra World Hospital leverages Nutanix for IT infra upgrade

Multispeciality hospital Sakra World Hospital has upgraded its technology infrastructure and is leveraging Nutanix to enhance medical services for patients and deliver multiple telehealth applications.

“Time is of the essence in healthcare. With our previous legacy infrastructure, we faced challenges like slow billing, extended wait times, and delays in retrieving health records and processing X-rays. These issues affected both our staff and patients,” said Bhoopendra Solanki, head of IT at Sakra World Hospital.

“With Nutanix HCI, IT has become an enabler for business. Clinicians can now access data in seconds not minutes, and we were even able to quickly respond to customer needs during the pandemic by rolling out new applications for virtual consultations, online registration and payments without any delay.”

Sakra’s initial three-tier legacy infrastructure involved high maintenance time and costs and became a barrier to further development. By switching to Nutanix, the hospital was able to cut their total cost of ownership by about 35 per cent, and the one-click simplicity has allowed Sakra to refocus resources away from routine infrastructure management and cut administration time by about 57 per cent.

Sakra World Hospital has migrated 41 applications from the three-tier infrastructure to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS, which includes Nutanix AOS, Nutanix Prism management software and Nutanix AHV. The hospital has 350-bed capacity and 200-plus doctors.

“IT plays an important role in healthcare today. With Nutanix, the lead time for implementing new services at Sakra World Hospital has been drastically reduced, and downtime has been cut by about 90 percent. We can now use IT to react faster to the needs of patients and staff, rather than simply keeping the lights on,” said Lovekesh Phasu, chief operating officer, Sakra World Hospital.

“The ability to shift focus from internal resource management to customers is a big advantage for any organization today, and more so on the critical frontlines of the healthcare industry. With Nutanix, Sakra World Hospital has been able to adapt quickly to changing patient needs and continuously meet their goal of delivering a customer-centric experience,” said Faiz Shakir, Director, Sales, India and SAARC, Nutanix.

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Fujitsu and AutoGrid to boost Renewable Energy use in Japan

Fujitsu, AutoGrid to boost Renewable Energy use in Japan

Fujitsu Limited said that it will begin offering Autogrid’s Virtual Power Plant (VPP) solution in the Japanese market.

Fujitsu will leverage the solution to maximise the use of distributed energy resources in the domestic energy market and contribute to the expansion of renewable energy and the realisation of a decarbonised society. AutoGrid provides SaaS solutions to many energy companies in Europe, Australia, Asia Pacific and North America.

Based on the agreement, Fujitsu will begin selling the VPP solution AutoGrid Flex in the Japanese market as an AutoGrid partner.

Since renewables remain dependent on the weather, however, it often proves difficult to predict and adjust the amount of energy supplied. The development and expansion of VPP, which combines distributed energy resources owned by factories and homes to manage and control them, represents a possible solution to these challenges.

What the collaboration entails

 

By taking advantage of Fujitsu’s strong partnership with customers in the energy industry and proven track record of providing SI services including in VPP related areas, as well as AutoGrid’s experience of deploying VPP solutions globally, Fujitsu will contribute to the creation of an industry wide next-generation energy platform.

AutoGrid Flex enables the optimisation of energy operations and the control and management of distributed energy resources. By providing this solution to energy providers and aggregators, Fujitsu will contribute to the realisation of next-generation energy platform to maximise the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and distributed energy resources, such as storage batteries.

Going forward, Fujitsu will expand its capabilities in the area of energy data utilization to achieve real-time, high-precision, optimised control of distributed energy resources, significantly enhancing the value of energy resources managed by energy providers and aggregators. AutoGrid aims to expand its business in Japan with its VPP technologies, providing Fujitsu with VPP solutions that enable the utilisation of multi-functional, flexible, and distributed energy resources that are suitable for the Japanese market.

“AutoGrid aims to expand its VPP presence in Japan by providing Fujitsu with solutions that push the utilization of flexible DERs to the next level,” said Amit Narayan, Founder & CEO, AutoGrid. “We already see a great openness to grid innovation in the Japanese market, and this partnership paves the way for more efficient, intelligent and clean energy systems to take hold.”

“Distributed energy resources were introduced in Japan to promote grid resiliency but it often proves difficult to predict and adjust the amount of energy supplied. Energy providers, aggregators and grid operators have started building VPP systems to operate energy efficiently and to respond to the expanding energy trading market,” said Michiaki Morioka, Head of Utility Business Division, Fujitsu.

“By utilising Fujitsu’s strong partnership with customers in the energy industry as well as AutoGrid’s experience of deploying VPP solutions globally, this partnership will contribute to the creation of an industry wide next-generation energy platform.”

Also, the two companies will continue leveraging their respective strengths to promote the introduction of renewable energy and contribute to the realization of a more sustainable society by delivering solutions that contribute to the stable and efficient use of distributed energy resources.

In recent years, the introduction of distributed energy resources, which include renewables and energy sources like solar power generation and storage batteries, has been promoted to strengthen resilience against natural disasters and achieve the Japanese government’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

By the end of March 2026, Fujitsu aims to achieve sales of JPY 3.8 billion in the Japanese market for services based on AutoGrid Flex.

 

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Disney+ Hotstar signs multi-year deal for CLEAR Production Cloud

Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), the technology arm of Prime Focus said that Disney-owned video streaming service Disney+ Hotstar has signed a multi-year deal for CLEAR Production Cloud.

This deal is to enable secure and collaborative production workflows for their ‘Originals’ content, the company said. Disney+ Hotstar is an OTT service provider in India.

CLEAR gives users the flexibility to log-in from anywhere, anytime to upload, review, approve, edit, and share content. It allows for user-friendly features like mobile (iOS and Android) and Apple TV support, virtual playlist editor, elastic search engine, customizable projects homepage, and next-gen HTML5 Player, that will change the way the production teams work and collaborate at Disney+ Hotstar. CLEAR is bolstered with industry-leading security including powerful administration control, 256-bit encryption, JIT watermarking, Okta SSO, enterprise-scale managed security operations and, threat protection.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of cloud-based workflows for Media & Entertainment industry in production. And virtualised collaboration is a heightened requirement now more than ever for our Originals. We evaluated multiple products in the market place and found CLEAR to be more promising to cater to our production supply chain needs. We will now be using CLEAR to handle our supply chain for all of our Originals” said Akash Saxena – Head of Technology, Disney+ Hotstar.

“We are extremely delighted to be supporting Disney+ Hotstar on yet another transformation initiative. We’ve been managing production workflows in Hollywood for over 10 years and are excited to have a major studio in India sign up for CLEAR to help manage their production workflows — from pre-production prep files, schedules, scripts to production dailies and post-production cuts all on ONE software,” said Ramki Sankaranarayanan, Founder and Global CEO, Prime Focus Technologies.

NeoSOFT partners with Tonik for Neo Bank in Southeast Asia

NeoSOFT Technologies, one of India’s leading IT consulting and software solutions provider, said that it is the exclusive technology partner of Tonik.

Tonik is Southeast Asia’s first digital bank and have launched their first innovative Neo Bank in the Philippines.

A Neo bank is a digital direct bank that only reaches customers on mobile apps and personal computer platforms. It gets an edge over the traditional or legacy banking systems by virtue of it being ‘only digital’ presence.

This Neo bank is built on cloud-native, open API, multi-cloud strategy and delivered over true Agile or DevSecOps mode, is fully digital with no branch and will revolutionise the way money works in Southeast Asia. Tonik entrusted NeoSOFT for its talent pool across diverse technology areas to develop its Neo Bank mobile and web application.

Working on the philosophy of trust, transparency, and accountability, NeoSOFT has driven value and innovation throughout the entire product development cycle. Certified engineers, top-notch skills, and adeptness on the latest tools and frameworks have been the pillars behind Tonik’s Neo Bank’s successful launch, the company said.

“NeoSOFT is happy to see Tonik drive transformation in the spectrum of Neo Banks and be passionate about improving people’s financial lives through the use of technology in an era of absolute disruption triggered by new-age technologies like AI, ML, Edge Computing, Automation, etc.,” said Nishant Rathi, CEO and Founder of NeoSOFT Technologies.

In the consumer banking sector, Neo banking gets more optimistic today and is here to drive a significant disruption in the fintech arena. Neo banks are increasingly finding increased acceptance globally. Recently, in March, Rewire, a fintech start-up that develops cross-border online banking services tailored for the needs of expatriate workers worldwide, announced a Series B funding round of $20 million and a significant line of credit from a leading bank. Similarly, InstantPay, India’s largest Neo bank, is eyeing a revenue of around US$50 million (Rs 350 crore) in FY21, an impressive three-and-a-half times growth in the last three years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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India’s largest power generator NTPC completes total installed capacity of 65,810 MW

With the successful completion of trial operation by Unit-2 of Tanda Super Thermal Power Station in Uttar Pradesh (UP), NTPC’s installed capacity has risen to 65,810 MW.

NTPC, India’s largest power generator also said that its Unit-2 of 660 MW capacity of Nabinagar Super Thermal Power Project (3 x 660 MW) of Nabinagar Power Generating Co. Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of NTPC Limited) has successfully completed trial operation.

NTPC also announced Commercial Operation Date (COD) of the first part capacity of 70 MW Of 85 MW Bilhaur Solar PV Project in UP.

NTPC Group has 70 power stations including 26 renewable projects. The group has over 18 GW of capacity under construction, including 5 GW of renewable energy projects. With global shift in energy space, NTPC is increasingly emphasising on ESG and changed its focus to renewable for future growth while improving on sustainability matrix. Sustained efforts are underway for transforming into an Integrated Energy company.

Uninterrupted supply of electricity through environment-friendly energy projects at affordable prices has been a key fous area of NTPC, company officials said. In February, NTPC commenced commercial operations for the Kameng Hydro-Electric Project, a part North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary company of NTPC Ltd.

In the December-ended quarterly results, gross generation of NTPC came in at 65.42 billion units as against 61.21 billion units during the corresponding period of previous year. This us an increase of 6.87 per cent. For nine months of financial year 2021, gross generation was 193.28 billion units as against 191.35 billion units during the corresponding period of previous year.

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Tiger Brokers sees huge potential in Singapore for online trading

Xiaomi-backed online trading platform Tiger Brokers Singapore, has said that its business has continued to see exponential growth and momentum in Singapore.

The online and mobile-focused brokerage saw 100 per cent growth in customer accounts for three consecutive quarters in 2020.

This performance comes is a part of strong performance by Tiger Brokers’ Singapore’s parent company. For the fourth quarter and the year ended December 31, 2020 total revenues were US$47.2 million, a 136.5 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2019.

The total number of customers globally with deposits increased by 128.4 per cent year-on-year to 258,700 in 2020. The global platform also added 44,000 funded accounts in the fourth quarter, 3.9 times the number of new funded accounts in the same quarter of last year; the total number of funded accounts doubled in 2020 to reach 258,700.

Tiger Brokers’ account balance increased by US$5.0 billion in the fourth quarter and reached US$16.0 billion, an increase of 215.9 per cent since the end of 2019.

Wu Tianhua, Chief Executive Officer of UP Fintech Holding Limited said, “The total addressable market in Singapore is huge. The country has one of the highest rates of digitalisation in the world, and a nation-wide preference for digital banking which is supported by high tech infrastructure and key fintech initiatives led by the government, making it a very attractive and relevant market for Tiger Broker’s services. This is a market that has huge potential for us, and we are working hard for incremental market growth, especially focused on younger Singaporeans who are getting more savvy with their investment needs.”

Eng Thiam Choon, Chief Executive Officer of Tiger Brokers Singapore, added that compared to a decade ago, trading seems to be out of reach for many people.

“However today, we are seeing an increasing number of individuals, as young as Generation Z, beginning to explore online investing as a viable financial lifestyle choice. People are more aware of the trends and developments in global economies and changes in business landscapes today,” he said.

Tiger Brokers Singapore saw an overall shift in user digital experience driven by the pandemic and recognised the need to keep pace with its investors’ demands by differentiating and expanding its services. In 2020, the platform has onboarded two exchange platforms – Singapore Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange, bringing the total number of exchanges available to Singapore investors to six across five countries.

This access, especially to US markets, has been a huge value-add to its investors.

Growing strong and steady

Tiger Brokers has also focused on creating convenience for its users; working with bank partners to help create a seamless payment system; working with technology partners such as Iress, one of the largest and most active online trading communities; TradingView, strengthening Tiger Brokers’ community engagement; and lastly, the launch of Tiger Brokers latest Fund Mall product that allows everyday-investors access to popular public funds.

Tiger Brokers recently partnered with OTC Markets Group Inc. to provide customers with detailed insights and make more informed trading decisions on the OTC markets.

“At Tiger Brokers, our objective is to provide an array of financial and educational tools to support the new generation of investors in their investment journey. Our fantastic Q4 result would not be made possible without the support and faith of our Singapore and regional investors. As we remind investors to diversify their investment, we hope to continue bringing value-added investment opportunities to our current investors, while attracting the new ones,” stated Thiam Choon.

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Microsoft resolves issues that led to productivity apps outage

Microsoft has said that it has successfully resolved the issues that led to an outage which affected cloud services on April 1.

The affected services included Azure, Teams and Dynamics 365, according to reports. “We’ve successfully resolved the issue that was causing residual impact for SharePoint Online and we’ve confirmed that all Microsoft 365 services have returned to a healthy state.” Microsoft said in a Tweet.

Spike in DNS traffic

During the outage, some users experienced “intermittent issues” with accessing Azure, Dynamics, Xbox Live and other cloud services, the Redmond-based giant said. In order to mitigate the impact of the issues, Microsoft “engaged resilient DNS capabilities to absorb the spike in DNS traffic,” the company said.

The issues on Thursday followed Microsoft’s March 15 outage that had impacted “any service” that uses Azure Active Directory, Microsoft’s widely used identity authentication solution.

During that outage, Microsoft indicated that the biggest impact was on Teams, which is used by businesses and is part of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of productivity apps. While Asia Pacific seems to be largely excluded from this outage, Microsoft said that it has identified that a portion of infrastructure within Central United States, Western United Kingdom and France encountered errors.

Also, reports of some users in Canada, unable to send and receive Microsoft Teams chat messages were doing the rounds in the last week of March.

The outage on April 1 is the fourth such instance on Microsoft Teams since February. Teams has around 115 million daily active users worldwide as of late October, Microsoft had said in the past.

That was a more than 5 times increase from a year before, when Teams had 20 million daily active users, Microsoft said.

 

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NXP India ties up with govt to set up fabless chip design incubator

NXP India has tied up with the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Hyderabad) to set up an accelerator.

The programme will identify, facilitate and mentor the start-ups in the niche area of start-ups will be incubated for two years in each cohort every year. NXP India is a part of the Nasdaq-listed NXP Semiconductors.

Startups working in semiconductor chip design, IP design, design services and chip design tools are eligible to seek space in the incubator, the company said.

The accelerator would pick five start-ups for the incubation programme. They will be incubated for two years.

Each start-up will get benefits up to Rs 1 crore a year.

“The incubation and accelerator programme can bring the core impetus to the strengthening of fabless semiconductor design in India,” Lars Reger, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer of NXP Semiconductors, has said.

“The Union Government has been working towards promoting the electronics system design and manufacturing sector to bring electronic manufacturing to the country. There is also a need to build a fabless design ecosystem,” Ajay Sawhney, Secretary (MeitY), said.

“This collaborative effort will give an impetus to the semiconductor ecosystem in the country,” according to B S Murty, Director of IIT Hyderabad.

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Hydrogen emerging as a clean energy alternative to power DCs

As the drive towards sustainability is moving at a break neck speed, corporations on their part are making an effort to build “green” at the centre of everything. Most of the new data centre build outs are happening with renewable energy at the centre of powering its gargantuan needs. Take the case of Singapore. The country’s data centre industry accounted for 7 per cent of the countries total electricity consumption in 2012. This ratio is expected to reach 12 per cent by 2030 due to rapid growth in DC business.

Enter the Hydrogen!

Hydrogen is beginning to emerge as an important part of the clean energy mix needed to ensure a sustainable future. It can also help improve air quality and strengthen energy security. Falling costs for hydrogen produced with renewable energy, combined with the urgency of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, has given clean hydrogen unprecedented political and business momentum, according to a report by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

In February this year, Atos and HDF Energy announced their plan to develop a complete end-to-end long-term solution to supply data centres with green hydrogen generated by renewable energy. The new solution by Atos and HDF will be the first available on the market for data centres with heavy power consuming workloads, company officials said. HDF Energy is an Independent Power Producer (IPP) focussing on utility-scale clean power generation.

“We are constantly seeking to develop solutions to leverage our own sustainable journey towards decarbonization and to support our clients in theirs. In this perspective, the solution to be developed by Atos and HDF will be the first solution available on the market that will enable a full production datacenter with very demanding workloads to be operated using green hydrogen. This meets the expectations not only of operators, but also of the market and public authorities.” says Arnaud Bertrand, SVP, Head of Strategy and Innovation for Big Data & Security at Atos.

“We are very excited to develop the first-of-its-kind green datacenter with Atos. HDF is a pioneer in hydrogen-energy and it is very important for us to demonstrate that our Hydrogen-to-Power solutions are suitable for customers with a strategic need for a reliable electricity supply. This further development into the digital industry, where energy consumption is increasing every day, opens up a considerable worldwide market for us. The HDF-Atos partnership offers the first unique and sustainable infrastructure for this huge market.” stated Damien Havard, CEO at HDF.

Atos will provide a complete end-to-end green data center solution by designing and providing the hardware, software and integration services that make it possible to exploit the electricity produced by green hydrogen so that it can be used in data centres. This includes using the most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to optimise energy consumption.

HDF Energy will supply a power plant, which will provide predictable and firm electricity thanks to its high-powered fuel cells. These cells will be powered by green hydrogen derived from photovoltaic or wind farms.

According to US Dept of Energy, a data centre consumes 100-200 times power when compared to an office building. “Energy alone cosumes 50 per cent of a data centre’s operating costs,” according to Professor Wen Yonggang from NTU College of Engineering. Prof Wen’s latest work on DCWiz for Data Centre Digital Transformation has researched on green data centre, including data centre cooling systems, power systems and the world’s first tropical air free-cooled data centre testbed.

Where hydrogen helps

The current policy debate suggests that now is the time to scale up technologies and to bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used. Hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges.

It offers ways to decarbonise a range of sectors – including intensive and long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel – where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions. Additionally, it increases flexibility in power systems. Hydrogen is versatile in terms of supply and use.

Also, it is a free energy carrier that can be produced by many energy sources. Hydrogen can enable renewables to provide an even greater contribution. It has the potential to help with variable output from renewables, such as solar photovoltaics (PV).

Hydrogen is one of the options for storing energy from renewables and looks poised to become a lowest-cost option for storing large quantities of electricity over days, weeks or even months. Hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels can transport energy from renewable sources over long distances.

Transition challenges galore

Even as the case for Hydrogen is attractive, concerns remain. From designing hardware to usage of software (that consumes optimum electricity), everything needs to be looked into minutely.

“In order to develop a green data center, there are many challenges to tackle. You need to reduce the energy consumption of the data center, and to make the consumed energy greener,” says François Trahay – Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at the Institut Polytechnique de Paris.

At the hardware level, the servers need to consume as little energy as possible while providing enough computing power to process an increasing amount of data. This means that processor manufacturers constantly improve their hardware design so that billions of transistors only consume a few Watts while being able to process billions of instructions per second.

“At a data centre scale, the cooling of servers and the air flow within the server room is optimised in order to cool tens of thousands of servers with as little energy as possible. The heat produced by servers can be collected and reused to heat buildings,” points out Trahay.

At the software level, finding new algorithms that process data efficiently is key to reducing the energy consumption of servers. The other main challenge is to exploit computing resources efficiently by improving the operating systems or by grouping applications on a few servers so that idle servers can be switched off.

“In addition to the reduction of energy consumption, a green data centre also needs to consume energy that does not generate greenhouse gases,” opines Trahay. For instance, data centers in Iceland can be powered by geothermal or hydroelectric power.

Another possibility is to use wind or solar energy. But such fluctuating resources require to be able to adapt the energy consumption of the data centre, or to store the energy so that it can be used later.

Reality check

Development of blue hydrogen as a transition solution also faces challenges in terms of production upscaling and supply logistics. Development and deployment of CCUS has lagged compared to the objectives set in the last decade. Additional costs pose a challenge, as well as the economies of scale that favour large projects. Public acceptance can be an issue as well. Synergies may exist between green and blue hydrogen deployment, for example economies of scale in hydrogen use or hydrogen logistics.

Also, a hydrogen-based energy transition will not happen overnight. Hydrogen will likely trail other strategies such as electrification of end-use sectors and its use will target specific applications.

The need for a dedicated new supply infrastructure may limit hydrogen use to certain countries that decide to follow this strategy. Therefore, hydrogen efforts should not be considered a panacea.

Instead, hydrogen represents a complementary solution that is especially relevant for countries with ambitious climate objectives. Per unit of energy, hydrogen supply costs are 1.5 to 5 times those of natural gas, according to industry watchers.

Low-cost and highly efficient hydrogen applications warrant such a price difference. Also, decarbonisation of a significant share of global emissions will require clean hydrogen or hydrogen-derived fuels.

Currently, significant energy losses occur in hydrogen production, transport and conversion. Reducing these losses is critical for the reduction of the hydrogen supply cost.

Dedicated hydrogen pipelines have been in operation for decades. Transport of hydrogen via existing and refurbished gas pipelines is being explored. This may reduce new infrastructure investment needs and help to accelerate a transition, according to the IRENA report.

However, equipment standards need to be adjusted, which may take time. Whether the way ahead involves radical natural gas replacement or gradually changing mixtures of natural gas and hydrogen mixtures is still unclear, observes IRENA.

While international hydrogen commodity shipping is being developed, another opportunity that deserves more attention is trade of energy-intensive commodities produced with hydrogen. Ammonia production, iron and steel making, and liquids for aviation, marine bunkers or feedstock for synthetic organic materials production (so-called electrofuels or e-fuels that are part of a power-to-X strategy) seem to be prime markets.

However, cost and efficiency barriers need to be overcome. This may offer an opportunity to accelerate global renewables deployment with economic benefits.

How energy-intensive areas such as data centres use this will be interesting to look at, going forward.

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Indian women-led startup develops deep-tech for low-cost internet services

Astrome, a women-led startup, has developed an innovative wireless product that gives fibre-like bandwidth at fraction of cost.

This would help telecom operators deliver reliable low-cost internet services to suburban and rural areas. Providing internet access to remote places in countries like India is difficult because laying fibre is too expensive.

This has resulted in a need for wireless backhaul products that can deliver low cost, high data capacity, and wide reach. However, currently available wireless backhaul products either do not provide sufficient data speeds or the required range and are very expensive to deploy, industry watchers opine.

It is here that Astrome has sensed an opportunity. Their wireless product called Giga Mesh could enable telecom operators deploy quality, high-speed rural telecom infrastructure at 5 times lower cost. Rural connectivity customers and defence customers who have already signed up for pilots will soon witness the demonstration of this product by Astrome.

The deep tech startup, incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and supported by DST-ABI Woman Startup Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India proved their millimeter-wave multi-beam technology in the lab in 2018, for which the company has been granted a patent in India and US.

Since then, the technology has been converted to a powerful and scalable product called Giga Mesh, which can solve much of the last mile connectivity telecom needs of our country. The product has been proven on the field and also integrated with partner products for its upcoming commercialisation.

The Multi-beam E-band product, Giga Mesh, packs 6 Point-to-Point E-band radios in one, thereby distributing the cost of the device over multiple links and hence reduces capital expenditure. The radio provides long-range and multi-Gbps data throughput at each link.

Features like automatic link alignment, dynamic power allocation between links, and remote link formation help operators achieve significant operating expenditure cost reduction.

Astrome is currently conducting a field trial at Indian Institute of Science university campus. In this field trial, the company has already achieved data streaming at multi-Gbps speeds across the campus.

“Indian Institute of Science played a very critical role by helping us connect with investors, providing business mentorship, and giving us space to conduct our product field trials,” said Dr. Neha Satak, Co-founder & CEO at Astrome, while recalling a weeklong trip organized under the DST-ABI woman startup initiative which provided her with valuable inputs from the US Venture Capital ecosystem, to prepare for the launch in that market.

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CMKL University and TCC Technology to launch national AI supercomputing research infra

CMKL University and TCC Technology (TCCtech) will launch national AI research infrastructure and dataset exchange to provide the high-performance computing solutions to The National Data Platform for AI.

CMKL University was established as a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). CMKL has leveraged the best practices from CMU, the US- based University, known as the top Grad School in AI field and KMITL, Thailand Based University, also known as the top University in Engineering fields.

With the core value – Beyond Limit, Make it happen, CMKL was initiated to create a new collaboration between the industries and academia. “As many companies moved to Pittsburgh to be near CMU, now we are bringing CMU to Thailand to create the new way of work with business in Thailand and this region. We are pleased to work with TCC Technology, Thailand’s leading infrastructure and solutions providers, in handling the world class infrastructure to support research for our National AI platform” said Dr Supan Tungjitkusolmon, President of CMKL University.

Unleashing AI power in Thailand

AI initiatives will become increasingly important in the near future. This collaboration, with the readiness of high performing infrastructure, is regarded as a significant milestone to create substantial impacts by making technology accessible and accelerating AI work in collaborative R&D fields to benefit for Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy & society in Thailand and its neighboring countries.

“We encourage universities and businesses to open up and work together in order to combine our strengths so that we can leverage AI power to the fullest extent and be ready to compete in the global stage. Thanks to PMU-C’s support, we can build the new, powerful AI-enabled infrastructure called “APEX,” located here at CMKL University (Carnegie Mellon – CMKL | Thailand). APEX can help unleash high performance for AI workloads without limiting your imagination, as well as accelerate turn-around time for analysis, thus shortening time to market.

For sustainability in providing such AI-infrastructure services in the future, we are collaborating with global partners as well as domestic service providers, like TCC Technology, to build national capability to maximize APEX’s capability and understand how to provide AI-infrastructure services.” pointed out Dr. Orathai Sangpetch, Vice President of Research and Strategy at CMKL University.

APEX Goliath, a key initiative under framework of Thailand’s BCG economy

As part of BCG (Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model) infrastructure development, APEX Goliath is a key initiative, sponsored by PMU-C (Program Management Unit for Thailand’s Competitiveness), Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO), an autonomous public agency affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.

APEX Goliath is the data exchange & AI analytics platform across integrated systems for BCG. It will help accelerate to maximize the value of data and AI economy for industries such as medical & wellness, food & agricultural, tourism & creative economy and bio-energy in Thailand.

“TCC Technology is honoured to be part of CMKL’s success in implementing the infrastructure solutions to be the national data exchange & AI analytics Platform under Thailand’s BCG development. This could be regarded as the big step to leap frog our country in AI field and transform Thailand to be a value-based and innovation-driven economy.” noted Teerapan Luengnaruemitchai, Managing Director of TCC Technology

“TCC Technology –as the Technology Trusted Solutions Partner is ready to support CMKL’s central computing node in spearheading the AI initiatives to be beneficial to research and university nodes and businesses across Thailand and Southeast Asia”, said Pipit Jariyavattanavijit, Deputy MD – Commercial and Operation of TCC Technology

CMKL adopts the integrated infrastructure solutions, powered by TCC Technology. The solutions range from data center & containment, network & management appliance, high performance GPU & storage and AI/ HPC appliances. In addition, the end-to-end solutions include the management & monitoring of high speed connectivity linkage to our country’s neutral internet exchange making the performance optimisation and effectiveness possible.

Powerful computing in Southeast Asia

“With 30-petaflop AI computing power, the ‘Apex’ cluster deployed at CMKL is one of the most powerful AI-focused infrastructure in Thailand and this region. The infrastructure will be a part of federated AI computing facilities deployed across universities in Thailand.

It also serves as the central repository for AI corpuses & research datasets supported by MHESI and PMU-C. Its aim is to push AI to solve real-world use cases.

We collaborate with TCC Technology and leading technology companies to make the system available to the much needed areas of research that will enhance the country’s competitiveness. With training speed as the key to success for AI project, high performance computing means more work can be done and more opportunity for researchers to turn AI research ideas to business opportunities,” said Dr. Akkarit Sangpetch, CMKM (Thailand) program director at CMKL University.

Petaflops indicates a unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second.

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Are Bank Boardrooms in need of more Air Jordans instead of Pinstripes?

The world’s largest banks continue to lack technology expertise and digital approaches, even as adoption has increased.

According to a new report from Accenture, based on an analysis of the professional backgrounds of nearly 2,000 directors of more than 100 of the world’s largest banks by assets, found that while banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands ― such as the growing need for digital interaction and remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boards of these banks lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their technology investments.

Rapid tech adoption

“Much of the disruption brought about by the pandemic has led to a rapid shift within banking to more digital touchpoints, requiring speedy technology investments,” said Mauro Macchi, who leads Accenture Strategy & Consulting in Europe. “Banks that are accelerating their cloud adoption to better manage change would benefit from a board with technology experience that can help ensure that technology investments are compatible across various business units.”

The report does not give particular pain points but has chosen to generalise a bank’s approach towards tech adoption. This gives rise to the debate again on whether banks need to leverage tech or become technology companies themselves. One cannot expect the latter as they are not in the business of tech.

According to the report, Accenture recommends that 25 per cent of banks’ Board should have technology experience. While the world’s largest banks have made progress on adding technology experience in the boardroom ― which Accenture defines as executives holding or having held senior technology positions at a company or senior responsibilities at a technology firm ― that progress has been slow.

For instance, only 10 per cent of all board directors, as well as 10 per cent of the CEOs on the boards, evaluated for the report have professional technology experience, up just 4 and 6 percentage points, respectively, from five years ago.

In addition, the number of banks whose board has at least one member with professional technology experience has increased only 10 percentage points in the past five years, from 57- 67 per cecnt ― meaning that one-third of banks still have no board members with professional technology experience.

Tech’s tango with Banker’s trust

So, does this mean that ‘technology experienced’ professionals can better navigate any disruptions around the corner? The answer is nuanced. “Banks are traditionally regulated and resistant to change. Parachuting a few tech-savvy Board members can add some acumen,” says Nitin Kumar, Executive Chaiman at Ligl and author of a new of the book CEO 3.io -Driving Exponential Change.

However, Kumar added that they need to ensure that disruptive and new technology is used to develop new markets or new value propositions and not make the old operations, products and services better.

The report, on a positive note, while only 19 per cent of the directors with technology experience five years ago were women, that figure is currently 33 per cent.

From a geographic perspective, the report found that the boards of banks in the UK, Finland, Ireland and the US have higher percentages of directors with professional technology experience than those in other countries, with sizeable increases compared with the 2015 findings.

However, the percentage of banks’ Board of Directors with technology experience is still very low in Brazil, China, Russia and various countries across Europe, including Austria and Italy.

“While it’s not practical for banks to make a rash number of tech-savvy board appointments to fill the gap in technology credentials, they should consider technology expertise as a factor for new appointments, alongside their other evaluation criteria,” Macchi said.

There are also other, more immediate ways to increase technology expertise among board members — for example, coach members on the latest developments on key technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and IoT to better understand how the combination of technology and human ingenuity unlocks value.

Boards can also tap into the expertise of third-party suppliers and make time to specifically discuss the technology strategy during board meetings to get the most out of their investments, adds Macchi.

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Industry body FICCI partners with ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh for promoting grassroot technologies

FICCI and ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh have announced partnership to jointly promote and commercialize grassroot technologies developed in India and Bangladesh.

The announcement was made on the side-lines of the visit of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, as as part of the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme which is led by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and implemented by FICCI.

A bouquet of 49 technologies under the RuTAG (Rural Technology Action Group) programme will be offered to industry, social start-ups and NGOs in Bangladesh. These technologies have been developed at RuTAG centres housed across seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in India and focus on problems associated with marginal communities in rural areas. RuTAG innovations such as floating fish cages for inland aquaculture, powerless solar dryer for food processing, cold storage powered by pico hydro among others respond to real life problems faced by rural populations.

Tech spectrum

The technologies cover a spectrum of areas including environment, agriculture and farming, textiles, manufacturing, food processing and aquaculture among others. Besides technology transfer, capacity building support and virtual training sessions will also be provided to Bangladesh entrepreneurs to seamlessly absorb the Indian technologies.

Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India stated, “Science and Technology collaboration between India and Bangladesh is towards social and economic development in the region. Both nations can gain immensely through knowledge exchange and technology partnerships. The RuTAG program provides a wide range of grass root innovations that have the ability to create rural livelihood opportunities in Bangladesh.”

Dr Ketaki Bapat, Senior Scientist and Co-ordinator RuTAG program, at the Office of the PSA said, “The RuTAG technologies have been developed at the finest institutions in India. We wish to share these technologies with social entrepreneurs in Bangladesh assuring complete handholding support and leveraging digital technologies for successfully adopting these technologies.”

Mr Sanjay Nayak, Chair, FICCI S&T Committee and MD, Tejas Networks reiterated, “Through the RuTAG Program, FICCI remains committed to scale Indian innovations in BIMSTEC countries with a special focus on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been a long-standing development partner of India and there is tremendous potential for our nations on collaborating on the technology front.”

Speaking on the partnership, Mr Parul Soni, Global Managing Partner, Think through Consulting stated, “We are delighted to partner with the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme. Technological innovations can help rural communities in the world by increasing their income and their yields. While these reduce their risks arising on account of climate change and other natural disasters, these increase their opportunities too.”

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Adani Green to acquire 2 Solar Plants with 75 MW capacity

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), one of the largest renewables energy companies in India, has acquired a 100 per cent stake in two Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) holding 74.94 MW solar projects.

These are operating plants of Sterling & Wilson- a Shapoorji Pallonji group company, which is one of India’s largest real estate companies. The projects, commissioned in 2017, are located in Medak District of Telangana and have long-term Power Purchase Agreements(PPA) with the Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited, the company said.

The enterprise valuation of the target SPV is Rs.446 crore. AdaniGreen Energy Limited (AGEL), a part of India-based Adani Group, has one of the largest global renewable portfolios with 15.2GW of operating, under-construction and awarded projects catering to investment-grade counterparties. The company develops, builds, owns, operates and maintains utility-scale grid-connected solar and wind farm projects. Key customers of AGEL include the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and various state distribution companies or discoms.

With this acquisition, AGEL will increase its operating renewable capacity to 3,470MW with a total renewable portfolio of 15,240 MW.

Vneet S. Jaain, MD & CEO, Adani Green Energy Ltd, said: “Strengthening our portfolio through organic and inorganic growth opportunities is an integral part of our vision to build a capacity of 25 GW by 2025 and become the largest renewables company in the world. We will leverage the strength of our platform and capital management philosophy to achieve operational improvements and value-accretive returns from the project.”

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary approvals and conditions. Adani Green is listed in the Indian bourses.

Adani Group’s renewable energy portfolio has exceeded the total capacity installed by the entire United States solar industry in 2019.

According to a report by research firm Mercom, Adani’s solar portfolio is 12.32 Gwac. At the end of 2019, the United States had about 1,100,546 MW—or 1.1 billion kilowatts (kW)—of total utility-scale electricity generating capacity, according to data from US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Further, Adani’s solar energy generation will displace 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide, Mercom said. Gautam Adani, Group Chairman has set target of 25 GWac of renewable power in installed generation capacity by 2025. India has set a renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022.

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Tech investments into UAE expected to go up after Abraham Accords

The normalisation of business ties between UAE and Israel following the Abraham Accords, is starting to see a rush in technology investments.

In October 2020, Israel reached a bilateral agreement with UAE to provide incentives and protection to investors dealing with each country. Called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, it has opened up billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities.

As a part of the deal, investors would be protected from arbitrary changes in regulation and political situations and will be able to transfer funds out of the country, thereby putting investors’ minds at ease.

Business uptick

Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, business has picked up steam. UAE has said that it will launch a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel. This includes energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech, according to reports.

Recently, Waterfall Security Solutions, one of the leaders in OT cybersecurity, have announced their expansion into the UAE.

The Israeli cybersecurity company has opened an office in Abu-Dhabi. The normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, as well as several other countries in the Gulf, has generated strong interest in the region for Waterfall’s suite of unidirectional OT security products, as well as for partnerships and joint ventures with Waterfall Security.

Waterfall Security Solutions provides the strongest practical protection for industrial control system and Operational Technology networks and systems, and already protects many critical infrastructure sites in the region and throughout the world.

Waterfall counts customers in national infrastructures, power plants, nuclear plants, off-shore and on-shore oil and gas facilities, manufacturing plants, power, gas and water utilities’ companies as its clients. It has deployments throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“Waterfall sees the Emirates as both an important market and as a gateway to the region, and we are moving quickly to provide direct support in the UAE,” said Lior Frenkel, CEO and Co-Founder of Waterfall Security. “We also recognise the importance of local support and existing customer, government and other relationships, and we are actively engaging with partners to complement our efforts in the new office.”

Waterfall’s Abu-Dhabi office is part of the company’s continued rapid expansion, despite the global pandemic and economic downturn. With the new office, Waterfall will initiate sales and marketing activities and provide solutions architecture and technical support to partners and end users.

“More investments involving technology will flow between these countries post COVID-19. Countries are interested in cybersecurity, healthcare, agri-tech and other technology from Israel,” said an analyst from a multinational research firm.

Similar to this development, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Registration Authority (RA), and the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority, have entered into a Statement of Co-operation (SoC) to facilitate more business.

Dhaher bin Dhaher Al Mheiri, CEO of the ADGM Registration Authority, said: “In light of the UAE’s momentous signing of the Abraham Accords, we at ADGM are pleased to partner with the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority to facilitate and realise the benefits arising from the increase of joint relations these two jurisdictions. We are confident that this agreement will result in fruitful outcomes for entities residing in both the UAE and Israel, serving as a gateway to valuable expansion and investment opportunities across both thriving business hubs and the wider region.

According to Dubai Customs statistics, the emirate’s trade with Israel in the five months (Sep 2020 -Jan 2021) reached a value of Dh1 billion and a volume of 6.217k tonnes. Of this, imports were valued at Dh325 million (718 tonnes), exports at Dh607million (5.4k tonnes), and transit trade at Dh98.7million (52.4 tonnes). The mutual trade expected to grow to Dh15 billion in the next few years.

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Vietnam’s underbanked: Are fintech startups ready to take on telco giants?

As the mobile money pilot project takes into effect this March, Vietnamese fintech startups, including over 30 e-wallet providers, will face fresh competition from national telecommunications companies.

At the beginning of March, Vietnam’s Prime Minister has approved the “Mobile Money” pilot project, allowing telecommunications businesses to implement mobile money services in the next two years. The pilot project is expected to strengthen the exponential growth of Vietnam’s financial services, promoting financial inclusion and signalling an initial success of a cashless society in Vietnam.

In a talk with a local newspaper, Trung Thanh Vu, manager of Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank, a partner with Viettel Pay to provide mobile money service in the country, said that this method will be an “extended arm” of the banking industry as it could cover the underbanked market in rural areas.

As recorded in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of Vietnamese adults do not have bank accounts, the highest rate in Southeast Asia.

Though the number dropped drastically to only 37 per cent as of the end of 2019, according to the State Bank of Vietnam, experts said that the banking industry meet difficulties in serving the remaining potential customers as most of them reside in rural and remote areas, which favour transaction in cash and beyond the reach of financial services.

Meanwhile, by the end of October 2018, Vietnam had 130 million mobile subscribers, 1.3 times higher than its population. Around half of them use 3G and 4G, and 43.7 million, or 45 per cent of the population, using smartphones, as per a report from the country’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). In other words, Vietnam is among the top nations achieving this extensive coverage of mobile telecommunication and mobile money can be the missing piece of the complete picture.

Without linkage to a bank account, a person employing a mobile money service can still make transactions via mobile phone. The involvement of this method can help remove the current incumbent that others have not resolved entirely for the unbanked users, such as paying for small-value goods and services.

From a global perspective, in 2019, more than one billion people have registered mobile money accounts, accounting for one-seventh of the world’s population, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. The total amount of spending via this method is approximately $2 billion daily and has witnessed a 20 per cent growth rate annually.

Imminent competition between fintech startups and telco giants

Vietnamese economist Hieu Tri Nguyen said that mobile money and e-wallet would be each other’s archrivals, BNews reported.

The late birth of mobile money also poses a certain barrier to its future development. People are getting used to other payment intermediaries, such as credit cards, e-wallets, or QR Code by VNPAY.

Before mobile money, payment via mobile phone channels (including mobile banking, e-wallets) has already increased by 125% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the statistics of the Payment and Settlement Department of the State Bank of Vietnam.

In a broader outlook, mobile money will join a crowded market with a marked number of fintech startups in Vietnam, which saw a considerable growth of more than 179 per cent between 2017 and 2020, according to a report by Fintech News Singapore. Payment remains the biggest segment, accounting for 31 per cent of all Vietnamese fintech startups as of October 2020. The country is also home to 39 licensed non-bank payment services providers, with MoMo, Payoo, Moca, ZaloPay and ViettelPay being the five biggest e-wallets.

Challenges in the horizon

But the looming challenges to those startups are not lying on the “mobile money” itself, but the telco giants that embark on this business with their huge customer base and long-built ecosystems.

Earlier last year, three telecommunications giants in Vietnam – Viettel, MobiFone and VNPT, which are serving nearly 96 per cent of Vietnamese mobile subscribers – registered to add payment intermediary to their business lines, paving the way for penetrating the mobile money market.

Kien Trung Pham, CEO of Digital Viettel, a Viettel subsidiary, told ICT Vietnam that the company can immediately provide mobile money services for its 60 million mobile subscribers, leveraging the payment method through its 2,600 stores, malls, post offices, 270,000 points of sale and more than 30,000 employees providing service support for customers nationwide.

VNPT also shared its plan to integrate mobile money payment method into its existing ecosystem, ranging from healthcare, education to television and mobile. Around 100,000 VNPT’s points of sale are ready to provide the new service. What’s more, as VNPT has been assigned to implement the national public service portal since 2020, the company possesses a huge advantage to roll out this type of cashless payment method for public services.

MobiFone representatives once said that they are aware of the fierce competition with other financial intermediaries such as e-wallet providers. Still, they are confident with their reputation within Vietnam, primarily through their countrywide mobile telecommunications network coverage.

Potential collaborations to better serve underbanked people

Some experts said that the direct competition between those telco giants and other payment intermediaries (like e-wallet) might not happen, as mobile money has a slightly different market.

Mobile money will tap into only the “niche” market, which resides mainly in rural areas and prefer a better way to make small purchases. To be more specific, mobile money only allows a maximum transaction limit of VND10 million per month (about $432) for each register, according to the regulation. This is much lower than the current ceiling of VND100 million (about $4,320) per month for each e-wallet account.

In terms of other traditional money transfer operators, they can also work with mobile money providers to offer cross services. In Africa and other developing countries, Western Union has joined forces with Safaricom M-PESA in Kenya and PayMaya in the Philippines to provide cash transfer services through mobile. Bangladesh-based bKash mobile money is also collaborating with Mastercard to deliver remittance services.

Many startups also look at the entry of telecommunications behemoths as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Gimo, which has just received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from local investors, is a fintech startup employing Earned Wage Access (EWA) platform to address the financial needs of underbanked workers, who are also the target customers of telco giants’ mobile money services.

“We see them as potential partners,” said Quan Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of Gimo, told W.Media. “This is where we could work together to create value for our joint customer base.”

Nguyen highlighted the possible partnerships with telco companies to enable users to route their advance payment to a registered mobile number, supplementing their current option of a dedicated bank account.

“It’s a great opportunity to enhance our user experience and scale our user base,” he stressed.

Experience in other parts of Asia are mixed. In the Middle East, and parts of Southeast Asia, telcos call the shots. In India, fintechs are in the forefront. Ultimately, Vietnamese customers will decide what is beneficial for them.

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China’s “Two Sessions” impact on the Data Centre industry

Thousands of China’s political, business, and social elite converged in Beijing in March for the country’s most important political event, known as the “two sessions”. The annual gatherings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) serve as a weather vane of China’s politics, revealing the central government’s priorities and plans for the coming year. Especially, this year-2021, it marks the start of the next five-year plan (China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, 2021-2025) and marks the Communist Party’s centenary year.

Many firsts

China has for the first time unveiled an ambitious roadmap for its plans to transform into a world-leading power by 2035, which rest on technological innovation and scientific research. With further strengthening the national strategic scientific and technological strength, data centers as the infrastructure are the foundation to empower the development.

Although the Chinese government has decided to ease restrictions on foreign investments, telecommunication sector for information security purposes remain largely off-limits to foreign investment, e. g. telecom operators must be majority-owned by Chinese firms.

Cybersecurity laws require operators of telecommunication infrastructure to store collected domestic key data and personal information in China. Foreign telecommunication business must therefore store data generated by China-based internet services in China. Regulators have also limited foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services.

On Oct. 21, 2020, China published a draft of the Personal Information Protection Law (Draft). Once formally promulgated, the Personal Information Protection Law, along with the Cybersecurity Law and the Data Security Law, will be the three fundamental data protection laws in China. Though no information has been provided as to a timeline for a revised or final version of the Draft, companies doing business in China are suggested to make necessary preparations wherever possible, considering the PIPL’s potentially wide-ranging impact.

Reforms, Reforms and more Reforms

“To build a new development pattern, we must build a high-level socialist market economy system, implement a high-level opening up, and promote mutual promotion of reform and opening up” is included in one of the eight key tasks in 2021. Under the framework for the overall strategy, China has announced a further opening up of its manufacturing and financial services sectors to foreign investment with the removal of seven items from its so-called “negative list” as part of an annual review.

On June 23, 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOF) jointly issued two “negative lists”, both of which took effect on July 23, 2020. These two negative lists enumerate the industries where foreign investment will either be prohibited or restricted. This is a timely follow-up of the promise made in the 2020 Two Sessions about further relaxing market access for foreign investment.

Now, the “negative list” runs to just 33 items – down from 40 – and is even shorter in China’s designated free-trade zones.

On January 29, 2021, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges stated that in order to improve the supporting rule system for infrastructure public offering REITs and ensure the orderly development of the pilot work, in accordance with the overall work deployment of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges have formulated and issued three major business rules.

These three major business rules are the “Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Business Measures, Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 1-Audit Concerns and Public Offering of Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 2-Offering Business. All these will be implemented on trial basis.

The official release of these three rules signifies that the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchange has made phased progress in promoting the pilot work of infrastructure public offering REITs.

The chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Yi Huiman, mentioned the core task of “increasing the proportion of direct financing.” Infrastructure REITs are one of the direct financing tools. Shenzhen Stock Exchange currently reserves nearly 40 projects in the fields including data centers and industrial parks logistics.

Aiming to finance China’s next phase of development through digital infrastructures, including 5G, data centers, logistics centers for E-commerce, and cross-border digital trade warehouses, etc., Infrastructure REITs is regarded as an important initiative to boom digital economy. China needs innovative and structured financial instruments to share market-based risks and returns between the public and private investors.

Contrary to the Western REITs experience, China’s main goal is to support China’s digital infrastructure building. The plan specifically excluded residential and commercial real estate properties from the REITs, meaning China’s REITs are not designed to finance real estate developments and properties.

Lesson for Big Tech?

China’s antitrust enforcement remained robust in 2020 and is expected to and reach the peak in 2021. The State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”) issued a flurry of new guidelines in the antitrust space that provide more guidance on its enforcement priorities and its interpretation of the law.

This could be a pivotal year.

On February 7, 2021, SAMR issued Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Platform Economy Sector (“Platform Guidelines”), which follows a string of actions taken by the Chinese government to regulate the internet platform sector, tightening existing restrictions faced by the country’s tech giants. Most notably, the suspension of the initial public offering by Ant Group.

Recognizing that there are difficulties and enormous discrepancy in applying traditional antitrust enforcement approaches to the platform economy sector, the Platform Guidelines come into being. It is worth mentioning that, the Platform Guidelines acknowledge the complexity of the platform economy and that a market would not necessarily be defined by reference to an undertaking’s basic services. As a result, if the platform is a distinct market or one that involves multiple related markets are took into consideration.

The state supports the innovation and development of platform enterprises, enhances international competitiveness, and supports the common development of public and non-public economies. At the same time, it is necessary to regulate development in accordance with the law and improve digital rules, and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital.

Conclusion

Every year, China’s most notable tech industry leaders are invited to the “two sessions” to help formulate a national vision for the country’s technological development. This year, new proposals from the heads of China’s biggest tech companies, including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Lenovo Group, seek to address issues such as upgrading digital infrastructure.

China has been ramping up efforts to build out and improve what it calls “new infrastructure”. The broad term applies to a variety of technologies and related areas, including 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed rail and research institutions.

The strategy outlines how China intends to become a leading global innovation engine, catch up to the average income level of developed countries, and display world class strengths in economy, global governance and soft power, as well as green development.

To achieve its goals, China will recalibrate its reform strategy, putting greater emphasis on the quality, rather than quantity, of future growth, with technology innovation and scientific research as key.